06:10PM, Saturday 15 May 2021
Photo: Darren Woolley
Maidenhead United 0, Sutton United 3
Sutton United took a huge step toward lifting the National League title this afternoon after wearing down a hard-working Maidenhead United side for all three points at York Road.
Victory lifts Matt Gray’s side four points clear at the top of the table ahead of second placed Torquay United’s trip to Stockport County tomorrow (Sunday).
After failing to take their chances in the first half, Sutton grabbed the lead through David Ajiboye’s close range finish in the 65th minute. They doubled their advantage with around 10 minutes to play when Omar Bugiel cut the ball back for Isaac Olaofe to apply the simplest of finishes and they wrapped up victory with the goal of the game, defender Louis John scoring from inside his own half after Maidenhead’s loan keeper James Holden was caught out of position.
The U’s began with a great intensity and, but for a couple of fine early saves from Holden, would surely have settled more quickly.
But by no means did they have things all their own way and Maidenhead came back into the contest as the half wore on, forcing their own share openings.
That said it could easily have been 2-0 to the visitors inside the opening 10 minutes. Seth Twumasi made a brave and brilliant block to deflect Olaofe’s strike behind in the opening minute while Bugiel skimmed the crossbar with a header and Holden saved well from Donovan Wilson who ran clean through after a sloppy pass out from James Comley was intercepted.
Josh Coley was an irritant to the U’s backline, and he almost danced through in the 10th minute before seeing his shot blocked. He’d earlier seen a volley flash wide of the upright. Twumasi also tested Dean Bouzanis from distance in the 22nd minute, but the U’s keeper got his body behind it.
Holden pulled off a flying, fingertip, save to turn Ajiboye’s effort from 20 yards behind for a corner mid-way through the half, while, at the other end, Rohan Ince turned well in the box and blazed just over after 34 minutes after George Wells’ shot deflected into his path.
Gray might have thought it wouldn’t be his side’s day when Wells flung himself in front of Ajiboye to prevent the Sutton man tapping the visitors ahead from Wilson’s low cross in the 55th minute.
Danilo Orsi-Dadomo had looked a little isolated throughout, but on the hour mark he came close to firing the Magpies in front with a clever little back heel which Bouzanis saved, after a surging run and low cross from Coley.
Sutton then scored the opener in the 65th minute and took control. Wilson again escaped the clutches of Twumasi, drew in Holden and drilled in a low cross which Ajiboye gleefully smashed into an unguarded net.
Olaofe looked to have wasted a great chance for a second when he miscontrolled the ball after being played clean through, but he made amends in the 79th minute, firing past Holden from close range after good and unselfish work from Bugiel to tee him up.
John then put the seal on a hard-fought but well-deserved win in injury-time when he collected Holden’s kick-out and returned it with interest from inside his own half, the backpedaling keeper unable to get to the defender’s driven shot before it bounced into the net.
The Magpies’ second 3-0 defeat to Sutton United this season leaves them 14th in the table, 11 points off the top seven with three to play. They visit Yeovil Town on Tuesday before welcoming fans back to York Road for the first time since March last year when Halifax Town visit next Saturday.
Gray said afterwards: “It’s another three points at a crucial stage of the season with three games to go.
“We were playing first ahead of our rivals Stockport and Torquay tomorrow and I’m pleased we were able to put three points on the board.
“In the first 20 minutes I thought we had several chances. We could have easily gone 1-0 up but then the game flattened out a little bit, it became a little stop start and Maidenhead came back into it a bit. I was pleased to get into half-time with the clean sheet. I thought that with our aggressive style and the way we play, the slope here would help us. The message was simple, be patient and wait for our chance and we had many chances.
“I’ve tried to keep the players level-headed all season and that’s no different now with three games to go. We stuck to our game plan and that’s what’s been getting us results all season.”
Magpies boss Alan Devonshire added: “They’re a decent side, you can see why they’re top of the league. We’ve given away silly goals but, listen, we’re in a transition now and we’re looking at a few different things. I thought the first goal was the killer goal. It was a poor goal from our point of view, they just went down the side of us after a missed header.
“We created some good chances but listen, it is what it is. We’ve got Yeovil now and I’m going to look at a few different players. Up to the first goal it was even, but they had the quality and they defended properly.”
This weekend’s smart motorway closures on the M4 will be shorter than usual due to separate bridge works taking place in West Berkshire (Junctions 13-14)